SHIELD couldn’t get ahead of the game, was constantly behind the curve, unable to anticipate the form or time the next hero or villain would arise. Instead the bad guys were the ones racing ahead, Centipede only the latest to take matters into their own hands. If they could, then SHIELD had to face a hard reality.
Trying to create a superhuman deliberately had never worked as intended. With Killian and AIM last year, and their offshoot Centipede this year, they had been trying for a specific result they had yet to achieve. Extremis had killed more than it had helped, and even those who had survived the procedure hadn’t necessarily remained stable or sane for long afterwards. Centipede’s upgrades still hadn’t produced the desired results – most died, the rest went crazy. Michael Peterson had been their sole exception due to the introduction of the dendrotoxin into his system as a critical moment.
The first superhuman, Red Skull, had been an experiment gone wrong. Steve Rogers, the first real superhero, had been another fluke. Though he’d been made by deliberate scientific procedure, any experiment that could not repeats its results was not valid. No one had been able to repeat Captain America, and many had tried.
Banner and the Hulk had been a tragic accident. Blonksy, the Abomination, had been pumped full of multiple variations of the serum until he broke. Romanov had been the product of one-time experiments by the Red Room. Barnes had been made by one of Zola’s serum variants combined with God-knew-what from his Red Room handlers.
Even Stark and Barton, normal humans, had become extraordinary under circumstances of talent, luck, accidents, and cruelty that would never be repeated.
Fury was not going to try to go that route. Replicating any serum variations or Stark tech had a horrific track record, and if anyone with the right clearance saw that kind of research, they’d know what was going on in a heartbeat. He wouldn’t throw himself into that thorn bush, no matter how juicy the berries were supposed to be inside.
Chance, however, favored the prepared mind. Heroes had come from the ranks of the trained, like Romanov and Barton, as well as the unexpected, like Banner and Stark. If he put his best people, his most likely candidates, into play, something could happen. He had to hope it would, and know he’d pay for it later, but where he was going to get new superheroes if he didn’t make an effort, he didn’t know.
The world wasn’t always going to drop a frozen Captain American or a friendly thunder god into his corner just when he needed them.
That was why he’d fought for Coulson, beyond any reasonable human expectation of mercy or decency. Coulson had been healthy in body and mind, rock solid inside and out, the best and most capable agent Fury had, with no skeletons lurking in his closet that he didn’t take out, catalogue, and polish periodically. He accepted all of himself and what he had done, and that made him invaluable. He, of all the people Fury knew, was the most likely to survive Resurrection Syndrome and come out sane. If he could do that, if Phil had that personal connection with the inexplicable, the unexplainable, the mystique of having come back from the dead, then even the strongest of potential new heroes couldn’t dismiss him for being “just an agent, you wouldn’t understand.”
Coulson could. Coulson would. Coulson would be able to keep them together with more than just competence, he’d have true empathy for what they’d gone through.
So Fury had ignored his pleas to die. Your tour of duty isn’t over, Phil. You knew it when you signed your life away to SHIELD. There’s a future generation of heroes who need you. And you’ll believe in them.
Fury had chosen his agents for the Bus with care, letting Coulson have his pick, even giving him access to May. He knew Coulson would demand the best, and put forth his choices, the younger agents subtly groomed for the positions with certain mission assignments to make them more likely to be picked.
Coulson had taken them all.
And Fury had given them what they’d asked for – all the assignments they were suited for, pushing them as far as he dared. The Bus’ mobility meant Coulson’s team was agile, frequently going in with less back-up and taking more exposure than other agents. They were the first to catch Centipede. The first on scene with an 084. The first to catch artifacts and new technologies emerging from contact with alien dimensions. Exposure after exposure. Chance after chance for that fluke to happen.
Fury wanted them to live, needed them to not only live, but thrive and keep their humanity, their loyalty, if not to SHIELD, than to the greater good. The world was getting stranger, faster than ever before, and it needed heroes, superheroes, to keep up with it. That was why he had kept Coulson, why he’d pulled May from the desk, put two highly-intelligent non-combatants on a tiny team, why he’d pulled a confirmed specialist loner at Coulson’s request. Why he’d approved Skye’s presence.
Fury read the after-action reports along with the bugged recordings from the Bus with a grim satisfaction. Coulson’s team was dancing on the edge. May and Ward had been exposed to the berserker staff, Simmons to the Chitauri virus, Fitz to a half-dozen unusual energies. And Skye – that an 084 had come to his team meant fate was dealing him a perfect blackjack.
He wouldn’t hope for a tragedy, but at the same time, he was counting on something. The world was more than strange enough to oblige him, and give him the heroes they so desperately needed. Eventually, Coulson would find out that he’d been dragged out of his coffin for world security. Eventually the Avengers would see his face and realize what Fury had done. Eventually Coulson’s team would figure out that Fury had been behind every subtle push that had brought them towards the irrevocable change that made them who they were.
But not, God willing, before they were ready.
When the time came, Fury hoped he would be able to face each and every one of their origin stories.